You’ll find it if you walk half-way down the alley and up a few stairs. Turn around and look up. It’s written in pencil on a white wall – it’s O.K.
The simple message gave me goose-bumps when I first started digesting it.
I rushed out of the alley to meet the videographer I was working with and we started asking people in the Quadra Village if they knew anything. Nobody we spoke with did.
So we ventured deeper down the alley, where it narrows so much you have to almost walk sideways. At the end, we found a door and knocked on it.
Kat answered. She said she smiles every time she passes the graffiti, and suspects it may have been written by one of the homeless people who live in the area and cuts through the alley. “I think it’s just a reminder for people that ‘it’s O.K.’”
It’s a message Kat would have liked to have heard after being abandoned by her dad as a child, while she was feeling unwanted and unloved. Her mom took her on a vacation to Florida when she was seven, but they never went to Disney World and they never came back to Victoria.
Growing up in the U.S. was not O.K. for Kat. “I’ve attended 23 different schools across 18 cities. And I’ve moved 123 times.” She dropped out of school at 16, and endured homelessness, addiction, and severe depression.
By the time she was in her early 20s, Kat had moved back to Canada and found a job. That’s when she received a Facebook message from an aunt and cousin she didn’t know she had. They told Kat her dad’s side of the family had been searching for her for 15 years. They said her mom took her and her dad never left her.
When Kat finally reunited with her dad, he brought a child’s glove with him. “It was a glove I had when I was a kid. He kept it. I just started crying so hard when I saw it. (I thought) this is somebody who cares.”
We meet Kat’s dad a couple hours after we first found the ‘its O.K.’ message. Sheldon shows us pictures of a happy little girl he once thought he’d never see again. He tells us how proud he is of how Kat’s survived and that she’s now in university. He admits it’s taken a lot of work to rebuild their relationship, but says they’re great friends and she’s always been “number one” in his heart.
For Kat, having Sheldon and his family in her life is as profound as it gets. “For the first time – wow – this is what love feels like.”
The two are neighbours now too – both living in a building next to an alley marked by a message of hope.
Adam Sawatsky is co-host of CTV News Vancouver Island at Five. On weekends, he hosts ‘Eye on the Arts’ on CFAX 1070.